San Diego Day Hikers is one of the region’s most popular hiking groups on the social gathering website Meetup.com. But it has a pretty interesting past.
“The group started in the 1980s as a monthly hike, usually on the last Saturday, led by a professor from SDSU, and loosely affiliated with the Libertarian Party of San Diego,” says Philip Erdelsky, the group’s current leader. “Announcements were printed in the Libertarian Party newsletter, and also emailed to those who had email.”
Subscribers were mostly students and staff at SDSU, but Erdelsky took over the group in 1993. “I used email for the hike announcements, and in the late 1990s started posting the announcements on the Caltech Alumni server, which appeared on the then-new World Wide Web,” he says.
Fast forward to 2012, and Erdelsky decided to add the group to Meetup.com, calling it San Diego Day Hikers. Today, the group has nearly 22,000 members who join up for multiple hikes across the county every month.
Typically around five to 25 people show up for hikes which are free to join. Erdelsky guides many of the hikes himself, using resources such as Schad’s Afoot & Afield in San Diego county.
Joining a local hiking group is a great way to get to know other people who share similar interests and can even help with finding new routes. Thankfully, there are plenty of hiking groups like San Diego Day Hikers to check out—most of which don’t require any membership or fees.
If you’re looking for a new crew to join, here are more San Diego hiking groups to check out:
San Diego Day Hikers
This group gathers for hikes throughout the San Diego region with easy to moderate routes. The group usually hikes on the last Saturday of each month, but also has weekday evening excursions occasionally. Recent hikes include a Mission Bay five-mile walk, an urban four-mile hike through Marian Bear Park, and the five-mile Engelmann Oak Loop at Daley Ranch in Escondido.
This group for the UCSD community has a discord channel where users plan hikes and other outings. To join, you must be a member of UCSD, either a student or staff. The group has almost 2,000 members, and usually about 20 people turn out for hikes.
Recent hikes include the Santa Margarita River trail, Cowles Mountain, San Clemente Trail and the Potato Chip rock.
San Diego Happy Feet
This group on Facebook has about 700 members and plans monthly hikes, including big challenges such as El Cajon Mountain. Organizers say the group is very active with regular events. They mostly focus on hiking, but also organize backpacking, camping, snowboarding, skiing, running, cycling, kayaking, paddle boarding, and road trips events. Members can also create their own events and post them to the group.
Recent hikes include El Cajon Mountain, Mt McGinty, and Black Mountain via Nighthawk Trail. Hikes are usually organized on Saturdays and Sundays early morning at 6 am, but also weekday shorter evening hikes at 6 pm.
San Diego Sloth Hiking Team
This Facebook group is great for those worried about being too slow for a regular hiking group. They have about 6,000 members and plan regular outings on easier routes. They’ll also organize more challenging adventures such as hiking Mt. Baldy.
“San Diego Sloth Hiking Team at Mt. Baldy. Started [the] hike at 3:30 a.m. and finished at 3 p.m.! Long day of hiking, laughs, a few curse words and a ton of beautiful views,” one user wrote on TikTok. Other hikes include Kitchen Creek Falls, Cedar Creek Falls in Ramona and Devils Backbone.
For a guided experience, the San Diego Natural History Museum offers free guided hikes throughout the county led by volunteers. Hikes are organized every weekend, but are capped in size, so you need to sign up in advance. Priority registration is given to museum members, but if there’s still space then anyone can sign up.
People often join to explore the canyons near their homes that they’ve always been curious about but were hesitant to explore on their own, according to organizers. They also take treks into the desert to explore in groups.
“I sought the Canyoneers out because I was looking to do more desert hiking, but I didn’t feel comfortable going alone,” said Daniel, one of the Canyoneer leaders, on the group’s website. “It’s easy to get lost, there’s spotty cell phone coverage, I’d think ‘what if I got a flat tire?’ The Canyoneers offered the opportunity to explore new trails that I wouldn’t hike on my own.”
Wilderness Basics Course
If you want more than just a regular hike to join, and are looking to boost your wilderness skills, you can check out the San Diego Sierra Club’s 10-week wilderness basics course. The course covers hiking, camping, and backpacking through 10 in-class lectures with four weekend outings.
Skills training includes selecting clothing, gear, and equipment; how to use a map and compass; physical conditioning; first aid and safety; food selection and preparation and water filtration; animal encounters; and sanitation. During the overnight outings, participants will have to supply their own equipment.
The course is offered each year from January to May with lectures at 7 p.m. on Tuesday nights in Escondido at San Pasqual High School and in San Diego at the First United Methodist Church – Linder Hall in Mission Valley.
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